Jewellery of Mughul Period   Types of Jewellery    Gemstones    Branded Jewellery    Jewellery Products    Diamonds    Metal jewellery    History of Jewellery    Articles    Indian Jewellery    Tips and Care
Free E-magazine
Subscribe to our Free E-Magazine on Jewellery.
Learn More : India Business to Business Directory
Business Directory of Indian Suppliers Manufacturers and Products from India.
India`s leading Yellow pages directory.
India`s leading Yellow pages directory.
Home > History of Jewellery > Jewellery of Mughul Period
Jewellery of Mughul Period
Jewellery for Head & Fac.. Jewellery for the Neck.. Arm & Leg Ornaments
Turban Jewels
Akbar at his CourtThe visual evidence for Moghul jewellery at first entirely depended on the paintings executed for the third emperor, Akbar (1556-1605), mostly dating from the last two decades of his reign. From 1526, till the late sixteenth century, the style of jewellery worn from the foundation of the empire however, can so far only be guessed at. This is due to the complete imbalance between the travellers` descriptions; corroborated by contemporary Moghul accounts of the wealth of the empire and the striking lack of jewellery worn in. The perfect example of this can be seen in the scenes of Akbar in his court, whereby the emperor was fully decked with simple necklaces, occasionally a thumb or finger ring, and turban jewels which were either in plain gold, or gold and gem encrusted bands, or holders for plumes of feathers, whereas the court dignitaries were virtually unadorned.

The contrast between this apparent simplicity and William Hawkins` early seventeenth-century description of the Moghul treasury is startling. In a section entitled `The ornaments of gold`, he begins: `of brooches for their heads, whereunto their feathers be put, these be very rich, and of them there are two thousand... rings with jewels of rich diamonds, ballace rubies [i. e. spinels], rubies, and old emerods [emeralds] there is an infinite number, which only the keeper thereof knoweth. The treasury for uncounted stones was so vast that a treasurer and two assistants were employed full time solely to administer it; no diamonds were kept that were under two-and-a-half carats in weight. In order that the emperor might see this vast store of jewels, everything was divided into 360 parts, so that he could examine a certain number every day.

Akbar`s own style of jewellery was a hybrid of Iranian and Hindu influences, as would be expected of the emperor of a dynasty whose cultural roots were in Iran, but which had ruled northern India since 1526. The turban plume (kalgi or figha) and golden bands (sarplch) are exactly those seen in contemporary Safavid painting; his necklaces on the other hand are of the kinds listed in Kautilya`s Arthashastra, consisting of pearls, pearls and gems, gold on its own, or gold with pearls and gems.

A contemporary work, the A`in-I-Akbari, gives a list of ornaments worn by the women of Hindustan. Some of these may be seen, virtually unchanged and by this time worn equally by Muslim ladies, in the Gentil album of 1774, such as the karanphiil (`earflower`), which is shaped like the blossom of love-in-the-mist (Nigella sativa, or Nigella indica), and nath (nose ring). The nath (in the form of a circular gold wire threaded with a ruby between two pearls, or other gemstones), though clearly commonplace by the time Abu`l Fazl compiled his list, seems to be a foreign interloper. It does not appear in the sculpture or painting of the pre-Islamic period and there is no word for it in Sanskrit literature. Most scholars presume, therefore, that it arrived with the Muslim incursions of the twelfth century onwards. The few images of ladies at Akbar`s court show that the divisions marking Indian and Iranian jewellery may have been observed more clearly than in the case of the emperor`s ornaments; the dancers in the illustration from the Akbarnama of century 1590 are both Muslim and Hindu and wear clearly differentiated styles of jewellery in accordance with their origins.

Shah JahanBy the time Akbar`s son, Jahangir, came to the throne, fashions at court had undergone a dramatic transformation as can be seen in the painting of Jahangir weighing his son, Prince Khurram. The lavishness of the emperor`s appearance in miniature paintings now accords well with contemporary descriptions. Akbar followed the Iranian fashion by having his upright feather plume at the front of the turban. Jahangir introduced his own, softer, style with the plume weighted down with a large pearl. Later, Shah Jahan, his son turned to Europe for an innovative jigha, which related to the designs of the Dutch jeweller Arnold Lulls. Lulls supplied jewels to the English court between 1603 and 1606; Shahjahan also wore jewels by James I in the portraits brought to the court by Sir Thomas Roe. In the 1618 painting Shahjahan, still a prince holds an Indian version of Lulls` designs.
Foreign Travellers

Foreign travellers coming to India in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were dazzled by the splendour of the jewellery worn at the various courts and intrigued by the array of ornaments worn by people at all levels of society. Vijayanagar in 1438 saw all the inhabitants of the state, both the elite class and even the artisans of the bazaar, wearing pearls, or rings adorned with precious stones, in their ears, on their necks, on their arms, on the upper part of the hand and on the fingers.

Ludovica de Varthema, the Italian in India from 1503 to 1508, went to Bijapur, in the Deccan and he described the Muslim ruler`s servants as wearing rubies, diamonds and other jewels on the insteps of their shoes. Thus, even the adornment of jewellery on the fingers of their hands cannot be ruled out. And passing through the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, he also exclaimed that the king`s horse was adorned with so much of jewellery that he was worth more than some of the cities, and included to say that the king of Calicut`s jewels was "a wonder to behold".

Duarte Barbosa, the Portuguese official in Calicut a few years later, also described the multiplicity of gold ornaments worn by the thousand "ladies of good caste" in the king`s service. He also explained the ornaments of the Moghul women as in the side of one of the nostrils they used to make a small hole, through which they put a fine wire with a pearl, sapphire or ruby pendant. Other types, such as the mang (worn on the parting of the hair to add to its beauty) and bali, (a circlet with a pearl worn through the ear) were worn throughout the period.

In addition, Francois Bernier, the French physician who was in the court of Emperor Aurangzeb also had descriptions of India being "an abyss of gold" since he observed the gilt pillars in buildings, jeweled golden thrones and roofs and walls of plated gold. Sadly, very little gold jewellery has survived to show the exact nature of the ornaments, which led Sir Thomas Roe to describe the Moghul Court as `the treasury of the world`. He also describes Aurangzeb`s aigrette as being `composed of diamonds of an extraordinary size and value, beside an oriental topaz, which may be pronounced unparalleled, exhibiting a lustre like the sun.

The Influence on Rajputs

Some of the finest goldsmiths` works have been produced under the Mughal patronage. The colours were by no means exclusive to Jaipur, being found on much eighteenth-century jewellery from centres as far apart as Murshidabad and the Deccan. Some areas, such as Rajasthan, were able to resist being completely overwhelmed, because Rajasthan undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the formation of the hybrid Moghul style: its princesses married Moghul royalty and its rulers had taken high positions at court, both bringing their jewellery and, probably, their craftsmen with them.

The Rajputs had also contributed, willingly or not, jeweled and gold articles to the emperor`s treasury. In Rajasthan itself, there are restrictions on the use of certain types of gold jewellery. In general, Hindus do not wear gold on the feet, as it is a sacred metal, which would thus be defiled. However, notes that in Rajasthan `the anklet of gold [worn by men] worn on one or both feet is a proof of nobility as well as of being entitled to a certain position at a Durbar, and to certain honours when there. After the siege of Chitor, the equivalent of I70lb of gold bangles or anklets were found on the bodies of the men who had fallen, `all the men who wore them having been of noble-blood or knights`.

One of the earliest pieces of Moghul jewellery to survive shows creeping Europeanisation; the scrolling leaf designs on the inner surface of a thumb ring and dating to twenty or so years later, are influenced by Renaissance jewellery. A more significant European intrusion can be seen in turban jewellery where a completely new form seems to have its source in European hat aigrettes. Turban jewellery was the prerogative of the emperor, his close family, or members of his entourage (including his horse). The use of turban jewels interestingly mirrors the decline of Moghul authority and the rise in the importance of the provincial courts. Courtly jewellery carried on the traditions established in the seventeenth century, whereas in the nineteenth century, pieces made for exhibition from 1851 onwards and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, show that blue and green were still the keynote colours: but that a soft, pale, translucent violet and a slightly harsh, opaque gamboge yellow had been added, together with both opaque and translucent turquoise.

However, the Moghuls were not the only ones that used the turban jewellery, but also the many Hindu and Rajputs kings, who carried this trend forward. The 18th century sees different adornments used by the maharajas and the princes for their turbans. Though the making of the jewels was done mostly in Udaipur or Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, every decoration is different from the other.

Jewellery in Ancient.. Jewellery of Mughul .. The Southern Jewelle.. | Home | Sitemap | Contact Us